Princess Katy and The Bedside Table

by Katy on February 19, 2015 · 8 comments

In recognition of Throwback Thursday, the following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

Once upon a time there was a lovely princess. (For the sake of the story, we’re going to call her “Katy.”) Princess Katy was the proud owner of a table. You might have called it a console table, or even a desk, but for the princess, it was a bedside table. Sadly, this table had no finish on it, which meant that when the young princes drew all over the side of the table, her ladies in waiting were unable to remove the offending ink marks.

So the sweet middle aged princess threw a vintage tablecloth over the table and went on with her royal duties of picking out hats and posing for pictures with ill children.

But then, the Princess Katy got cable TV and watched a large amount of HGTV. She was full of inspiration and decided to refinish the table. With a sander borrowed from the hunky middle-aged Prince Dale, she set to work.

Armed with wood stain from the Queen Mum and oil finish from her own basement, the princess set to work. Although the hands-on time was minimal it took quite awhile, as her royal duties were numerous.

When the oil finish finally dried, the princess placed diamond knobs on the drawer, which she had garbage picked off an abandoned vanity.

The Princess Katy was very pleased with her bedside table, and felt she could finally focus her attention on important royal matters such as shenanigans with the stable boy and pleasing the Queen Mum.

Which is how it should be.

The end.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 18, 2015 · 26 comments

  1. I walked to Fred Meyer yesterday and only bought things on my list of dried navy beans, milk, kale and gum. (I’d loaded an e-coupon onto my loyalty card for free gum.) The kale became pesto and the navy beans became The Prudent Homemaker’s Rosemary White Bean Soup. The gum was a welcome treat for my younger son. The milk? Carrying it home was my upper body workout for the day.
  2. My husband used a dry cleaning solvent to remove his name from a soft-sided cooler, which he’d written in Sharpie. He got it as a freebie from work and we’ve never once even been tempted to use it. Now it’s ready for a new owner through our local Buy Nothing Group. Sometimes being frugal is is about providing free items for other people.
  3. My mother stopped by yesterday in the midst of running errands. Her next stop was the recycling center, and I gave her a couple of styrofoam meat trays as well as a rather large plastic bin lid which had no bottom. This saved me a trip and helped in my never ending quest to rid my home of excessive stuff.
  4. I stopped by the kids’ consignment shop yesterday as it’s directly across the street from the library where my son gets his Japanese tutoring. My son had culled a small stack of clothes from his dresser and surprisingly the store took every single piece. (A rarity!) Last week I brought in a pair of brand new shoes that our Japanese exchange college student left behind from last summer. They were pretty small, and would likely fit a large American ten-year-old boy. (Crap out of the house, money in!)
  5. I spent an hour or so on the couch yesterday reading a really good novel from the library. A honest to goodness paper book which required me to physically turn the pages. I’ll never fully convert to a digital world.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to? 

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 26 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 17, 2015 · 44 comments

Cheap Luna Bars

  1. My breakfast today was a reheated ham and cheese omelette that my son only ate a small part of from yesterday. It was perhaps a bit tougher than usual, but then again so am I.
  2. I’ve been decluttering the house lately, but instead of just donating to charity, I’ve been taking my unwanted stuff to area consignment shops. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s still worth it as the main shop I use is just a couple of blocks from the house. Just yesterday I dropped off a few items and was rewarded with $10.80 in cash. This supports my “crap out of the house money in” philosophy!
  3. My younger son hasn’t been able to find his wallet for a week or so. This includes his school I.D. which doubles as his public transportation pass. He cleaned his room yesterday and came up empty handed, and I almost forked over the $10 it costs to replace it this morning. However, I am a genius-level savant at finding lost items, so he and I have a date to search for it after school today. And if it continues to remain hidden, I think I’ll have him cover the $10 himself. After all, it’s kind of a buzzkill if the majority of my hard earned $10.80 pays his stupid tax!
  4. I’ve held off on buying a new blanket for our spare bedroom, (the old one keeps ripping despite almost weekly mending on my part) as well as a new purse for myself. (It has multiple holes and I keep losing small objects.) My mother has an extra blanket to give us and my friend has the exact brand purse that I like but she never uses, and has offered to simply give it to me. Of course, I’ll figure out something nice I can do in return.
  5. I’ve been putting more of an effort into bulk buying the grocery items that we regularly eat. Not only does this save money in terms of price-per-pound, but it also keeps us from running out to the grocery store for last minute items and inevitably throwing impulse items into the cart. My husband is very much a creature of habit when it comes to his work lunches, and he wants lemon Luna bars, which normally run 89¢ apiece. I recently found them at The Grocery Outlet priced at $3.99 for a box of seven and bought four boxes. This brings the price down to 57¢ apiece and saves us $15.96 for the 28 bars. (Not to mention the untold added expense of all the ice cream and craft beer!) Staying clear of late night grocery store trips is key to my family’s frugality!

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 44 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 16, 2015 · 54 comments

  1. I hitched a ride to my son’s soccer game with another mother since the game was an hour away in another town. I gave her a jar of homemade applesauce as a thank you for the ride. We stopped at a Mexican restaurant on the way home for takeout, and I ordered side orders of rice, beans and corn tortillas. I added toppings from the salsa bar and drank water in my thrifted to-go cup. Thrifty, filling and  ¡muy delicioso!
  2. I mended a backpack which I’d used in nursing school. It’s kind of served as the family’s backup backpack through the years and is now at the ready for whoever is next out of a backpack.
  3. We’ve been lying low lately which is the ultimate frugal activity. I’m not recommending the people stay sequestered at home, but there’s something very simple and satisfying about lounging around and watching back-to-back episodes of Gilmore Girls on Netflix.
  4. I was able to get a cat scratching post from my neighborhood’s buy nothing group. Hopefully this will keep my cat from scratching up the furniture. I rubbed catnip into it which she enjoyed, although I have yet to see her use it for any actual scratching. Any suggestions?
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 54 comments }

How I Made a Little Extra Money

by Katy on February 12, 2015 · 43 comments

Consumer opinion Katy

You already know that my motto is “use it up wear it out, make it do or do without,” with a non-official motto of “crap out of the house, money in.” But you may not know that I also have a backup motto of “How can I make some extra money?”

Okay, okay, it’s not very catchy, but I’m a doctor not a coal miner I’m an RN not a slogan wizard!

I’d casually signed up to do in-person consumer panels around a year ago. I’d kind of forgotten about it until I got an e-mail last month asking me to fill out a survey to see if I’d be a good fit for a panel. Apparently they liked what I wrote because they scheduled me to come in and share my valued (and exciting) opinions on thermal mugs for which I’d be compensated with a crisp $100 bill. And when they called to confirm a few details, the phone call ended with me being asked:

“If you could take a photo with anyone in the world dead or alive, who would it be?”

To which I answered:

“My secret evil identical twin.”

Because, yo . . . much better answer than Abraham Lincoln or Aristotle. Although possibly not as good an answer as Bruce Lee or young Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Where was I? Oh yeah . . . making money doing consumer panels.

The experience was vaguely enjoyable, plus there was free food! Sandwiches, cookies, chips, candy, sodas, bottled water, crappy coffee! I helped myself to a sandwich and some M&M’s and regretted not taking any cookies. If there’s a next time I’m showing up hungry and a few minutes early. Seriously. Umm . . . free food, people!

The time went by quickly and before you know it the six of us were in line for our envelopes of cash. (Very reminiscent of Tony Soprano.) I handed the blank envelope back with a suggestion to “use this again” and I tucked my hundred dollar bill into my wallet. (Was that smug and obnoxious? Probably at least a little bit.)

And when I went to the credit union to deposit the money this morning, I swept my hand under the coin counting machine and was rewarded with $2.60 in mostly quarters.

The extra money never ends!

I know that bigger markets than Portland, Oregon have better opportunities for consumer panels, (think New York City or Los Angeles) but us mid-range cities have them as well. Have you ever earned extra money from being part of a consumer panel? Or maybe you’re a secret shopper or some other random money earner? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 43 comments }

Why Yes, I Do Have an Opposing Viewpoint

by Katy on February 11, 2015 · 4 comments

How could I resist this library book?

Consumerism: Opposing Viewpoints

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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I Refuse To Give in to Higher Food Prices

by Katy on February 10, 2015 · 44 comments

Tortilla mix

You’d have to be blind to not notice the not so slow, and certainly steady rise in food prices over the past year. And if I were someone who shopped normally, it would be taking a hit on my family’s budget. But I don’t shop normally. I stock up on loss leader items, hit non-traditional stores like The Grocery Outlet and I buy in bulk. I rarely buy pre-prepared meals and have honed my skills at leftover conversion into both an art and a science.

Just this morning I stopped in at The Grocery Outlet after dropping my son at school and hit the motherlode. Chobani yogurts for 33¢ apiece, packets of turkey pepperoni for 25¢ apiece and my beloved flour tortilla mix for $2.49 per 5-lb bag! (My normal grocery store has stopped selling the mix, and I hadn’t been able to find a store that sold it since!) Needless to say I stocked up for our frequent burrito nights!

And when my receipt spit out from the register I told me that I’d saved $92.87 from my $34.80 bill!

Here’s what I bought:

  • 3 5-lb bags of flour tortilla mix.
  • 2 half-pound packets of sliced ham for sandwiches.
  • 8 packets of turkey pepperoni.
  • 1 bag of cut corn.
  • 1 jar of salsa.
  • 2 pounds of frozen whiting fish fillets.
  • 1 bag of frozen pierogies.
  • 1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts.
  • 1 bag of frozen shelled edamame.
  • 6 pots of Chobani yogurt.
  • 2 packets of frozen chopped prosciutto.
  • 1 fresh orange pepper.
  • 4 avocados.
  • 4 small bags of plain M&M’s.

Higher food prices? I just take them as a fun challenge. And pizza toppings? We’re now set for a good long while!

Have you had to change how you shop to accommodate recent higher food prices? Please share in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 44 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 9, 2015 · 64 comments

Konmari book

  1. I batched my errands this morning after dropping my son at school, and both returned library books and stopped in at Fred Meyer to pick up loss leader milk and $2/lb butter. I also bought a pound of navy beans and am cooking up the entire bag in the crock pot to make a batch of The Prudent Homemaker’s Rosemary White Bean Soup for tonight’s dinner. I’ll make extra this way to throw into the freezer.
  2. I’m using my neighborhood’s Buy Nothing Facebook Group to rehome some under appreciated stuff from my house. (I’ve also requested a few items, although so far I’m 0-for-0 on that front.) Today I have people coming by the house to pick up a cool neon guitar lightbulb and a set of The Tightwad Gazette books. (I have the compilation book, so these ones are redundant.)
  3. My younger sister hung out with me on Saturday to watch my son’s soccer games. We ate a fast and frugal dinner of frozen pierogis with a buttery kale pesto sauce. We then came home and watched Netflix while I cut old clothing into rags and mended a few items. We drank tea and munched on popcorn. (Hey, I said frugal not exciting!)
  4. I got bone chillingly wet while watching my son’s outdoor soccer game on Saturday. Instead of deciding that my 11-year-old raincoat needs to be replaced, instead I’m going to try a waterproofing treatment that we already own.
  5. I finished reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese art of Decluttering and Organizing and am starting the “KonMari” method. I’m trying to follow her directions to the letter, as I plan on doing a full review of the book, but her instruction to simply throw away anything that doesn’t “spark joy” is offensive to me. I went through the first step of going through all my clothing but will be donating, consigning and gifting my still usable clothes. (Not to mention making rags from excessively worn, torn or stained items.) I did throw away a pile of unusable socks, but regretted it afterwards when my sister told me that one of the Portland libraries has a dropbox for textile recycling. How is this frugal? I believe that being mindful with what we choose to own not only makes it easier to locate our belongings, but also helps us to to appreciate what we have in a way that curbs the urge to mindlessly spend. (I have other issues with this book as well, but I’ll write more on that later.)

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 64 comments }

Should Brand Matter?

by Katy on February 6, 2015 · 38 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

Yesterday’s Non-Consumer Mish-Mash column received a thought provoking reply to my mention that the 50¢ tank top I picked up at a garage sale was Old Navy brand.

“Why can’t it just be a great black tank top? Why does it have to be Old Navy?”

The reader went to on to write that:

“Because it sounds like we are buying these by BRAND and not because we like them. How does OLD NAVY black tank top describe a tank top any better? How does describing coffee mugs or underwear change how it looks by mentioning the brand name?”

This comment did not surprise me because the same commenter had earlier questioned why the brand of my garbage picked Crate and Barrel Christmas mugs mattered? I had not addressed the question at the time, (lord knows what what going on in my day when I published that piece) but the question had certainly been ruminating with me.

Does brand matter, or is it a completely irrelevant detail?

I think the answer is both yes and no. Brand is not important in terms of status. But some brands are better made than others, and certain brands are more cleverly designed. In the best case scenario, these two occurrences collide.

Take for example Garnet Hill, which one of my favorite brands. Garnet Hill is a mostly catalog based business that sells expensive clothing, housewares and kid stuff; but their star products is their bedding. Oh my God, the bedding! It’s extremely high quality and the graphics are fantastic. When I garbage picked a flannel duvet cover in their classic clouds pattern I was over the moon. Had that same duvet cover been a Target brand, I would have been less likely to bring it home and put the work into mending all the tears.

So yes, brand mattered in this case.

When I picked up the 50¢ Old Navy tank top at a garage sale, my thinking was not along the lines of “Wowie-zowie, it’s Old Navy!” but more along the lines of “This tank top looks functional. I already have a blue one that I also bought for 50¢ at a garage sale last summer, so I know it’ll work for me.”

And no, brand did not matter in this case.

In an ideal world, all consumer goods would be high quality and equally worthy, but such is not the case. Some brands are simply better than others, while stores like Target run the gamut from poor to fantastic quality. (My mother swears by their towels for her rental cottages.)

I describe myself as a “Non-Consumer” but that doesn’t mean that I am immune to brand awareness. It is simply more satisfying to score a $2 pair of Goodwill Levi’s instead of Wal Mart brand. I am not looking to fill my home with designer goods, instead I look for high quality goods that will not fall apart before they should. And if I can get three of four seasons out of that tank top, then I’ll feel pretty good.

How do you weigh in on this issue? Is favoring some brands more than others bowing down to Madison Avenue? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 38 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on February 4, 2015 · 61 comments

Free toothpaste

  1. I stopped at the credit union today to put some random cash into our checking account. I swept my hand under the coin counting machine and was rewarded with $1.50 in quarters. People may have noticed my odd behavior, but I’m okay with that. It pays to not be easily embarrassed. Literally.
  2. I did my big monthly stock-up grocery shopping at Safeway using a $10-off-$50 coupon. I matched their e-coupons with paper coupons and made the most of my dollars. Most non-consumery? I bought a 2-pound bag of carrots for 79¢, but I grabbed four different bags to weigh and buy the heaviest, which was a full 2-1/2 pounds. Why yes, I am a cheap date!
  3. After squeezing every last bit from my toothpaste tube, I went ahead and cut it open. There was easily another four days’ product left in the top bit.
  4. I had an afternoon appointment and spent at least ten minutes looking for a parking spot. I finally gave up and parked in a 15-minute spot even though I knew I would be gone for around an hour. I somehow lucked out and came back to a ticket-free car. Not a good plan, but in the moment it was a necessary one. (This story could easily have ended not so frugally.)
  5. I’m wearing thrifted clothing, batching all errands, drinking tea or tap water, washing clothes in cold water using small amounts of detergent, viewing the computer through my Dollar Tree reading glasses, not planning any new purchases, eating simple homemade meals and generally content with an extremely frugal life. (I only write “generally” because I’m craving another NYC trip, and am bummed that it isn’t in the current budget.)

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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